Antelope Valley Press
Edward Mooney, Jr.
December 6, 2010
Title: Want Peace on Earth? Travel on Ethics Lane.
For most of my life I've read and heard an expression at this time of year that has had me pondering - and I mean for decades. I see the words "Peace on Earth" written on just about every other Christmas card, sign or email message.
I've always wondered; is this something we can actually achieve (I mean other than hope that everyone will believe in exactly the same things I believe in)? I've been on a quest, a journey to understand peace, and a journey to find peace.
This year I found an answer, after a long time travelling. As you know, I'm working on a Doctor of Education degree (thus this column's movement to once-a-month). One of my fist classes was entitled "Ethical Decision Making for Educators". One assignment was to define the word "ethics".
On this travel to understanding ethics, I started with the dictionary. Most define ethics as something like a code or set of rules. But I wondered, if this were true, what are morals?
Through readings I discovered the commonly-held belief is a bit off-base. A code of behavioral rules in a society is actually a set of "morals". A "moral" person is one who abides by the rules of right and wrong. Of course, as an antithesis, an "immoral" person would be one who does not follow the rules of civilized people.
So, that still doesn't answer the question about "ethics", and it certainly doesn't help us understand what all of this has to do with the Christmas expression, "Peace on Earth". Rather than list a bunch of citations here, let's cut to the chase.
Ethics is not so much a set of rules as it is an attitude. Living ethically starts as a desire to live in harmony with others. So, just following rules does not make one an ethical person. It may make you moral, but ethics is more like something from the heart.
To simplify, look at it this way: ethics is moral rules with kindness and compassion, with a big stress on the idea of compassion. I can say that the path to an ethical life starts with seeing other human beings as being worthwhile, as having the same struggles as everyone else, and as wishing to be treated with dignity, care and respect. In other words, trying to see everyone (that includes you and me) as God would see them.
The antithesis of this is what I see every day - what you could label as "unethical." People looking out only for themselves, and not being concerned with how they hurt others, would be the opposite. Here's another way to put it: living selfishly, without regard for how you hurt anyone else.
The next stop on my rocky path toward understanding "Peace on Earth" took me back to my mother's lap, as a child. I remember her telling me that I should treat everyone with respect, because everyone is a human being, no matter what their color or bank account or language or religion says about them. I will never forget how she connected this idea called ethics to the idea called "Peace on Earth."
"Eddie," she said as she gazed out the window, "wouldn't we have less fighting, less need, less pain, less disrespect, and less anger, if we just treated other people the same way we'd like to be treated? Isn't it true that all of the world's fighting is because someone didn't treat someone else right?" Then she pointed to the crucifix hanging on her bedroom wall, the one now hanging on my own wall.
"I believe that is what He wants, Eddie. If Jesus had only thought of himself, he would not have died on the cross for us."
It was then that I saw my quest to understand "Peace on Earth" had returned me to my origin. I wandered around, but, in the end, the answer was always there, as I sat in my mother's arms. For the rest of my life, every time I see my mother's crucifix I will see the embodiment of ethics.
My friends, we're in the Christmas season. Popping up all over town are expensive consumer goods, such as electric signs, asking us to "Keep Christ in Christmas." Instead of all of the signs, wouldn't a dose of ethics be a better way to keep Him in the holiday? Maybe if we treat others with dignity in the stores, in the workplace, and in our day-to-day life, we will keep the love of Jesus in the season?
I wish you peace this Christmas, more than anything else. Peace on Earth.
Thought for the week: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." - Plato
Edward Mooney, Jr., a Palmdale author, is the 2010 DAR History Teacher of the Year for California.